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Kushner to visit Saudi Arabia, Qatar to try to mend Gulf rift

Nov 30, 2020

US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser will visit Saudi Arabia and Qatar this week. The Trump administration is making several Middle East policy-related pushes before President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January.

Jared Kushner will meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Reuters reported on Sunday.

It is unclear what Kushner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law, will discuss with the two Gulf leaders. The timing of the visit comes shortly after Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed. Both the United States and Israel believe Iran is seeking to build a nuclear weapon, which Iran denies. Iran has already blamed Israel and the United States for the killing. Saudi Arabia is also a staunch opponent of Iran’s policy in the region.

Kushner will be joined by the US envoy for international negotiations Avi Berkowitz and former Iran envoy Brian Hook, according to the US government-funded Radio Free Europe. US International Development Finance Corporation head Adam Boehler will also reportedly attend. 

The upcoming visit also comes on the heels of a meeting between Salman, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Saudi Arabia earlier this month. The three discussed Iran and also the prospect of Saudi Arabia normalizing ties with Israel. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, both allies of Riyadh, established ties with the Jewish state this year. Saudi Arabia is reluctant to do so officially but maintains behind-the-scenes relations with Israel — especially regarding Iran.

The Trump administration would like Saudi Arabia to likewise establish ties with Israel, and Kushner is heavily involved in Israel and Gulf policy. Trump’s State Department is also working to end the diplomatic conflict between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Qatar is also in the middle of hosting peace talks between Afghanistan and the Taliban, and Trump wants to remove US troops from the country before his term ends.

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